Reduce, Reuse, Redesign: Home Decor Gone Green
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Green living shouldn't be considered as just a lifestyle trend for "tree-huggers" but a norm for everyone to follow. True, it's quite impossible for most of us to go 100% green. Some people may be fortunate enough to drive a hybrid car, use a solar water heater and buy everything organic, whereas the others may opt to simply install energy-efficient light bulbs and water-saving showerheads. Not trying to be eco-friendly at all, however, is very unwise. Many green products not only save the environment but also help keep some dollars in your own pocket! When it comes to eco-friendly home decor, there's a vast number of options. Before we take a look at green decorating room by room, let's keep these basic principles in mind.
Green Decorating in a Nutshell - How to be Environmentally Friendly
- Choose natural and sustainable materials. When buying wood furniture, look for seals by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), American Tree Farm System (ATFS), or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). These certifications assure that the materials are from responsibly managed forests.
- Choose products that are designed for long-term use.
- Buy second-hand furniture or products made from recycled materials.
- Buy products that reduce energy consumption.
- If you have artistic skills, handcraft your own decor items, using available materials in your own home.
Eco-Friendly Living Room
- When it comes to living room furniture, natural and organic materials are the most eco-friendly. Look for wood, bamboo or rattan furniture with nontoxic, water-based finishes. Better yet, your furniture should also have a sustainable forest-management certification, so you can rest assured your rocking chair is not made of wood from an endangered rain forest! To decorate your green living room on a budget, opt for recycled materials, such as recycled barn wood or cardboard. Furniture made from these materials is very affordable and helps conserve natural resources.
- To save electricity, make sure your living room gets plenty of natural light during the day. Wood shutters, bamboo blinds and curtains made from natural fabrics are all eco-friendly. If you live in a very hot climate, woven solar shades can be a good choice, as they hold off heat and glare while allowing adequate sunlight to enter the room. On the other hand, if your home is located in a colder area, try thermal insulated curtains; they help maintain heat inside the room and accordingly reduce the use of heater.
- If you're inclined to embark on little handicraft projects, try making your own area rugs or accent pillow cases from recycled materials, such as old clothes or leftover yarns. Mismatched fabric leftovers, for example, can be cut into thin strips and woven together into a colorful area rug.
- Pay close attention to the final decorative touches. For example, forget about plastic wastebaskets and opt for wicker ones. Instead of adorning your coffee table with lifeless roses made from synthetic fabric and dye, make your room a little greener with fresh flowers. And if you have a lot of empty bottles laying around in the kitchen, turn some of them into beautiful vases for your living room.
- For a green bathroom, select floor and wall tiles that are made of all-natural materials. Cork and wood tiles are very pleasing to the eye and easy to clean up. Cork tiles, in particular, contain impressive insulation properties, which can lead to lower heating and cooling costs. For budget-challenged homeowners, natural linoleum and rubber tiles might be a great choice, as they are very cost-effective and durable. Ceramic tiles are usually not considered an eco-friendly material because the production process of these tiles is often energy-intensive. However, recycled ceramic tiles are widely available nowadays, and their outstanding durability certainly qualifies them as a green product. If you decide to go with this option, pick the ones that don't contain lead and toxic chemicals.
- Your bathroom cannot be truly eco-friendly without organic-cotton towels. Made from pesticide-free cotton, these towels are very soft and become even softer after each washing. The undyed version is the best, but if you really can't stand the boring off-white hue, choose organic-cotton towels that have been colored with low eco-impact dyes.
- If you have a plastic or vinyl shower curtain, consider switching to an all-natural version. Flax and hemp are highly recommended materials for bathroom use, as they are naturally anti-fungal and antibacterial.
- Do you know that toilets account for about 30% of water usage in the average household? To make your bathroom more water-efficient, opt for low-flow or dual-flush toilets. The low-flow toilet can save approximately 65% of water per flush. The dual-flush toilet is even better; it not only uses a similar low-flow technology but also comes with two-button activators that let you choose how much water to use. Last but not least, there is a new technology called "the greywater system", which allows us to use waste-water from the sink and shower to flush the toilet. Although this water recycling strategy has not yet been widely practiced, it has quickly gained more and more attention from the public, in the past few years.
- Similar to low-flow toilets, low-flow showerheads and faucets are also very water-efficient and considered "must-haves" for an eco-friendly bathroom.
How Green is Your Bedroom?
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- As the bedroom usually doesn't require a lot of light, recessed ceiling lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs is an excellent option. Recessed lighting fixtures often come with control switches, allowing you to dim the lights while relaxing in bed and brighten them when you want to read or do other tasks. If you'd rather go with table or ceiling lamps, choose ones thjat are made from recycled or natural materials.
- If you like to stay cool and comfortable at night, install window screens and let natural breezes filter into the room. A ceiling or free-standing fan is also a smart choice. It uses a lot less energy than an air conditioner. Plus, while most air conditioners look merely utilitarian, many electric fans are pretty chic-looking and can add quite a little charm to your bedroom.
- Select bed sheets, comforters and blankets that are made from natural materials. Cotton, linen and silk are green materials that give you cool comfort on warm summer nights and provide warmth during colder times of the year. In addition, they're all hypoallergenic, which means they're safe for the health of allergic individuals.
- Synthetic mattresses contain harsh chemicals, which have been added during the production process as a way to make them fire retardant. Eco-friendly mattresses, however, do not use these chemicals in any step of the process. Mattresses made from organic wool is the best eco-friendly option but unfortunately the most expensive as well. What makes wool such a great green material is the fact that it's naturally fire retardant, hypoallergenic, moisture-wicking and extremely durable. If you cannot afford pure wool mattresses, opt for the cotton or hemp versions blended with layers of wool instead. Cotton and hemp mattresses are also very eco-friendly although their durability is not as impressive as their pure wool counterparts.
- Don't forget about the pillows! There are so many eco-friendly options out there, from cotton and wool to natural rubber and kapok. Cotton-filled pillows are very affordable and great for people who like their pillows a little firm. Pillows made of wool are soft, bouncy, hypoallergenic and naturally resistant to fire, mold, bacteria and dust mites. Natural-rubber pillows provide firm support and good ventilation. Plus, they're resistant to mold and mildew. And last but not least, kapok pillows! This odd-sounding fiber from kapok trees is very lightweight and durable. One downside of kapok filling is that it smells very musty once it gets wet, so you have to make sure your pillows stay clean and dry.
To save water and energy, don't run your dishwasher with anything less than a full load!
- The kitchen might be a great place to set up a home recycling center. For a small kitchen, you can tuck your recycling center into a corner of a pantry or build one inside a cabinet. If your kitchen has plenty of floor space, a large freestanding version might be a perfect choice.
- If you have a garden, consider adding a composting crock to your kitchen. It is a very eco-friendly way to make use of food scraps. Good compost ingredients include vegetable and fruit wastes, grains (both cooked and uncooked), coffee grounds, used tea bags, egg shells, corn cobs, old bread, pizza crusts, noodles and basically anything made of flour. What you should NOT put into your composting crock are meat and fish wastes, dairy products and grease. These things usually attract rodents and maggots, and will also make your whole kitchen smell worse than an overloaded sewer.
- When shopping for a new dishwasher, choose one that is water-saving and energy-efficient. An eco-friendly dishwasher usually uses just about 4 gallons of water per wash and saves at least 40% of energy.
- If you're planning to buy a new refrigerator, choose one with Energy Star status. Believe it or not, replacing an old fridge with an Energy Star model could save enough electricity to light the average house for four months! And if you live alone or have a small household, consider a compact refrigerator instead of a full-size one. The smaller size the fridge is, the more eco-friendly your kitchen will be. Plus, it can make your kitchen appear a lot more spacious.
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